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Michael Zerafa stops Isaac Hardman in two, Cherneka Johnson wins IBF title

Michael Zerafa ended a grudge in triumphant fashion, while Cherneka Johnson narrowly claimed a world title.

Michael Zerafa stopped Isaac Hardman early in Australia
Michael Zerafa stopped Isaac Hardman early in Australia
Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images

Michael Zerafa and Isaac Hardman had a heavy grudge coming into today’s fight in Melbourne, Australia, and it was Zerafa who came out on top in the end, stopping Hardman inside of two rounds to take his undefeated record.

Zerafa (30-4, 19 KO) has been a fringe contender at 154/160 for years now, known mainly for losses in bigger fights to Peter Quillin and Kell Brook before he beat Jeff Horn in 2019. He lost a rematch to Horn, but then mauled an ancient Anthony Mundine inside of a round, and with the TKO-2 win over Hardman, he’s now won three straight and is in the mix for the IBF at 160.

Hardman (12-1, 10 KO) was down once, and Zerafa finished him off with another flurry just after.

In world title action, Cherneka Johnson (14-1, 6 KO) claimed the vacant IBF junior featherweight title with a split decision win over Melissa Esquivel (12-3-1, 4 KO).

Scores were 96-95 and 97-93 for Johnson and 96-94 for Esquivel, who lost her second straight close decision in a world title bout, previously falling in a featherweight challenge against Erika Cruz last November in Mexico. All three of her losses have been split decisions. Veteran boxing writer Graham Houston called it an “excellent fight” with “fair scorecards.”

Post-fight, Johnson called for a fight with countrywoman Ebanie Bridges, who recently won the IBF bantamweight title.